Maleeha pays tribute to Pakistan’s women leaders at UN

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NEW YORK: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi paid rich tribute to women leaders from Pakistan for their contributions to the evolution of the UN system as well as to Pakistan’s development.

Speaking as a co-sponsor of an event organised by Brazil and titled, “Women and the Origins of the UN – A Southern Legacy”, Lodhi said that it was the legacy of such women that inspired future generations of leaders in the region as well as across the world.

She also told the audience in the packed Trusteeship Council Chamber about the role played by women in Pakistan’s freedom movement. “This could not have become a reality without the active participation of the women who struggled as vigorously as men in securing the creation of Pakistan”, she declared.

She said that the strong participation of women in the country’s freedom movement encouraged and motivated many women leaders who worked tirelessly in those formative days, as politicians, diplomats, community leaders, student activists, members of the legislative assembly and special envoys to various international conferences, including the UN.

She recalled the role of Mother of the Nation Fatima Jinnah, Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan, Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz and Begum Shaista Ikramullah and said that these luminaries from a long list of noteworthy women, helped forge the concept of a progressive and democratic Pakistan wedded to the values of peace, security and international cooperation embedded in the UN Charter.

“With a progressive background, these women were the true custodians of fundamental human rights. During negotiations in various international forums, including the UN, they championed the liberal values of equality, dignity and non-discrimination”, she added.

 She cited the example of Shaista Ikramullah, a member of Pakistan’s first legislative assembly, who forcefully advocated women’s rights. Her untiring efforts resulted in realisation of the right to inherit property in the country’s nascent domestic laws.

As a member of the Pakistan delegation, she also succeeded in securing endorsement for equal rights of women in marriage in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

She said that as custodians of this illustrious legacy, women in Pakistan continued to set new standards of excellence, from Benazir Bhutto as the first elected female prime minister of a Muslim country to Dr Nafis Sadik, the first female to head a major UN voluntarily-funded programme.

She said that recognition of such distinguished women serves as an inspiration for the women and girls who are today so critically engaged in advocating and advancing the values that are enshrined in the UN Charter and the numerous laws and norms developed over the years on the basis of the charter’s principles and purposes.

She also said that today Pakistani women, such as Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, continue to make outstanding contributions to a world free of all forms of discrimination and abuse. “A world where the glass ceiling is being shattered, a world where women increasingly contribute to realising the goal of shared humanity that is the unspoken but fundamental objective of the UN,” she concluded.

The ambassadors of Brazil, India, Ghana and Columbia also spoke on the occasion which was followed by an interactive session. Closing remarks were made by Chief of Staff of the UN Secretary-General Maria Viotti.